Archive for the ‘Rhetorical Situation’ Category

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5 ways I help students with organization

posted: 1.31.08 by Barclay Barrios

I find that students often have trouble writing papers with strong organization. Sometimes, in fact, it feels like they could swap around all the body paragraphs and it would be the same paper—they don’t logically lead one to the other. Here are some exercises I use to help students focus on the organization of their papers:

1. Paragraph to Paragraph Transition
The most solid transitions, I suggest to students, comes from a statement that directly ties together two paragraphs. Start by having students review the material on transitions in the handbook. Then try this exercise. Have students take two paragraphs from their drafts. Ask them to write a one sentence summary of the first paragraph and then another one sentence summary of the second paragraph. Students should combine these two sentences into one, forming a strong and specific transition.

2. Rearrange the Order
Strong organization is self-evident. That is, when a paper is well-organized each paragraph clearly has a place in the whole. Have students test their organization by bringing in a draft for peer revision with the paragraph order switched around. If their peers cannot reassemble the original order then they need to work on transitions and organization.

3. Model Transitions
Have students locate examples of effective transitions in the current reading. Discuss what makes them effective—is it just the use of transitional words and phrases or is there a sentence pattern at work here? Have students apply what they learn by modeling one of these effective transitions in their current drafts.

4. Trail Markers
Trail markers make sure you don’t get lost in the woods; students can use the same technique to mark the trail of their arguments in their papers. Have students underline key sentences in each paragraph that “point the way” to the larger argument and/or to the next paragraph. If they can’t find sentences that work in that way, then that paragraph might represent someplace their readers might get lost.

5. All Outta Outlines
The strongest organization feels inevitable. Help students to locate that level of organization by having them produce multiple pre- or post-draft outlines, each with a different possible organization; you might in fact ask them to outline until they can’t outline any more. Do some points always need to come before others? Do they need to introduce a term, for example, before discussing it? Looking at multiple organizations can help students see the one that makes the most sense, the one that seems most inevitable.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Grammar & Style, Writing Process
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Draw the Argument

posted: 1.7.08 by Barclay Barrios

Switching to a visual register is a great way to get students thinking about a text in new ways. When discussing an essay, put students into groups and ask them to draw the argument, finding quotations from the text to support their representation. Groups can then re-draw these on the board to prompt class discussion.

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Categories: Argument, Integrating sources, Visual Rhetoric
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Having an Argument, Making an Argument

posted: 11.12.07 by Barclay Barrios

Help students to understand what an academic argument does by getting them to think about other kinds of arguments. Have students review the material on argument in the handbook and then ask them to describe the difference between an argument between lovers, an argument between political candidates, an argument in a courtroom, and a scientific argument. As a follow-up, ask them to describe the difference between “They’re having an argument” and “You have a convincing argument.” This exercise and discussion can be used to think about emotion, evidence, opinion, fact and the ways each can or should play a role in academic writing

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea
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PowerPoint to get the Power of Points

posted: 10.29.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students use PowerPoint or other presentation slides in order to reduce their arguments to the most essential elements. Since such slides are most effective when they contain only a few key points, students will have to locate the key elements of their argument; in designing the slides they should consider how visual elements like color, font, and alignment can enhance an argument. Have students review the material in the handbook on visual arguments and oral presentations to give them guidance in this exercise.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Teaching with Technology, Visual Argument
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Rhetorical Geometries

posted: 10.15.07 by Barclay Barrios

Introduce your students to the classic rhetorical triangle of receiver, sender, and message, using any material in the handbook on rhetorical situations or stance. Then ask students to make new shapes to explain rhetorical situations: what other elements should be considered? Would the inclusion of style make a rhetorical square? What elements would be in a rhetorical hexagon?

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Rhetorical Situation
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From HOCs to LOCs

posted: 10.8.07 by Barclay Barrios

Help students see the relationship between Higher Order Concerns and Lower Order Concerns but directly connecting the two. Students should identify key sentences in their drafts that reflect their intentions in terms of audience, purpose, argument, development, and transition.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Drafting
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To Keep or Not to Keep

posted: 4.9.07 by Barclay Barrios

At the end of the semester, ask students to generate lists of why they should keep and why they should sell their handbooks. In small groups, have them share these lists and then move into a class discussion about the usefulness of the handbook beyond this class.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Handbooks, Student Success
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Visualizing Argument

posted: 3.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the material in the handbook on visual arguments or visual aids. Ask them to come to class with a visual supplement to the current reading—a chart or diagram or photograph. In groups, have them share this material and then consider how incorporating it into the essay would enhance or change the author’s argument.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Document Design, Learning Styles, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Transitional Paragraphs for Understanding

posted: 3.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to review the material in the handbook on clarity and transitions, and also ask them to come to class having identified a passage in the current reading that they found particularly confusing. In small groups, students should share their passages and then pick one to work on. The groups will then insert a paragraph before this passage that uses transitions and acts as a transition to help everyone else in the class understand the movement of the author’s argument in this place.

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Categories: Argument, Collaboration, Grammar & Style
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Audience and Argument

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the materials in the handbook on voice, tone, and argument. Have them summarize the argument of their current draft or the current reading and then reword that argument to be sent as a text message on a cell phone, as an instant message online, as a blog posting online, and as a note to their parents. How does medium change message?

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Drafting, Grammar & Style, Rhetorical Situation, Teaching with Technology, Thesis Statement
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